How is your winter break going? Are the natives getting restless? Are you? Are you battling your children’s boredom from unstructured time?
As a child when my brothers and I would whine to my mom, “I’m bored.” She’d say, “Boredom is a high space!”. We had no idea what she was talking about, yet we moved on and found something to do. As a parent I understand now what she was saying, out of boredom, comes creativity. We, as parents, can nurture that creativity with a few simple actions.
Frequently the “I’m bored” statement is a call for some connection time. When Mom or Dad are too busy for too long, the kids just need to reconnect. Find a stopping point and give them 5 minutes of your attention.
Don’t solve, do brainstorm
Hearing “I’m bored” can be a huge burden on the parent if the parent is taking on the responsibility of solving the problem. It is not your job as parent to be the constant entertainer and when you are, you are only perpetuating their boredom and robbing them of the opportunity to learn how to entertain themselves. Let them know that it’s their job to find something to do and offer to brainstorm some potential activities, and make sure they are offering up as many ideas as you are. You can also create an activity jar full of ideas. Whenever they are bored, they can pick 3 ideas and choose which one to do. Just coming up with ideas to put in the jar is an activity in itself.
Just a few sample ideas are:
- Pet the dog
- Make a club
- Create a tongue-twister
- Get a ruler and measure things
- Match the socks
- Straighten a cabinet
- Create a recipe
- Count how many times you can bounce the ball
- Build a fort
- Make an I love you card
- Plan and put on a show
- Invent a game
- Make an obstacle course
- Write a story
- Limit the screens
It is so easy to let the screens (tablets, phones, tvs, computers) be the babysitter.
However, since that technology is designed to be dopamine producing and will restrict development of problem solving, creativity, physical activity, social activity, (shall I go on), it’s critical to limit the use of the screens so that kids can practice self-directed play. Remember the value of books, toys, crafts, even a cardboard box.
If you’re finding the kids complaining of boredom too frequently:
- Examine how structured their time is, maybe they need some practice with unstructured time.
- Look at whether they regularly have the opportunity to solve this problem themselves, or if the parents or babysitters are providing the solutions.
- Set aside some time for focused attention from you on a regular basis, they may be discouraged and need some connection time with you.
Giving your children the chance to navigate their way through the “high space of boredom” can be a valuable lesson.